Why England players have been told not to shake hands at this World Cup

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England have a golden opportunity to reach their first World Cup final since 1966 this summer.

After defeating Colombia on penalties earlier this week, Gareth Southgate’s side are now just two matches away from the biggest match in world football.

Defeat Sweden on Saturday afternoon and they will advance to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

They would then face the winners of Saturday’s other quarter-final between tournament hosts Russia and Croatia.

England will be favourites against either of those two sides, so no wonder Southgate has described this as a potential once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach the final.

"It's a great opportunity,” Southgate told BBC Sport this week, “and although our team will be individually better in two years, we might not have this opportunity again.”

Indeed, England are currently 9/2 third favourites to win this summer’s showpiece tournament ahead of their quarter-final against the Swedes.

Why England's players have been told not to shake hands

During the Sweden game, keep an eye out for how many of England’s players and staff - including Gareth Southgate - shake hands with their counterparts.

According to an exclusive report from Sam Cunningham, football correspondent for iNews, they’ve all been instructed to fist bump - yes, fist bump - rather than shake hands at this summer’s World Cup.

Why? Well, following careful planning by the Football Association and team doctor Robin Chakrabarty, it’s been decided that shaking hands risks spreading germs.

Fist bumping prevents the spread of germs and, as a result, reduces the chances of spreading viruses and illnesses.

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The FA are leaving nothing to chance

The FA fair that illness in the camp could derail their tournament and they are urging the players and staff to take precautionary measures.

“This is yet another example of how Southgate and his team of staff have left nothing to chance as they bid to reach a first World Cup semi-final since Italia 90,” Cunningham writes. “Already this tournament has been a success, with England’s young, vibrant squad winning their first major tournament knockout match in 12 years and first World Cup ever, and much of it is down to plans and preparation in the build-up.”

England Media Access - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

It was revealed earlier this week that the FA specifically prepared for a potential penalty shoot-out by urging the players to wait before taking their spot-kicks, like Cristiano Ronaldo does.

It had the desired effect, with England’s players winning their first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out.

While the instructions to avoid handshakes over the coming days might sound peculiar and a bit extreme, the thinking behind it is sound.

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